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George "geohot" Hotz, circa 2007  (Source: ISEF on FlickrGeorg)
Sony plans to put the DMCA amendments and its foes legal budgets to the test

About a week and a half ago, George "geohot" Hotz and the team of firmware hackers dubbed fail0verflow (Hector Cantero, Sven Peter, "Bushing," "Segher," and other anonymous members) released the root keys for the Sony PS3 via a smart phone hack.  Those keys allow virtually any app to be run on the PS3, a critical step to re-enabling the Linux support that Sony abandoned.

Needless to say Sony was less than enthused.  Claiming the release would promote piracy; Sony yesterday filed a restraining order [blog] against geohot and the members of fail0verflow citing Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violations and copyright violations.

Today they followed up that up with a full copyright infringement lawsuit [Scribd].  The suit was filed in San Francisco District Court.

Sony claims that geohot, in circumvent its copy protections.  It says that the geohot and the other named defendants:

  • Violated section §1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids bypassing access control measures;
  • Violated section §1030 the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which forbids accessing computers without authorization;
  • Contributed to copyright infringement in violation of section §501 of the Copyright Act
  • Violated trespass, "common law misappropriation", breach of contract, "tortious interference with contractual relations" as per Penal Code §502 of the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (commonly referred to as the California Computer Crime Law)

We're not lawyers, but as Jay-Z says we "know a little bit".  But all of these charges seem pretty tenuous.

The DMCA accusation is weakened by the Library of Congress's recent addition the DMCA, stating that in the cell phone arena it is permissible to:

Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset. 

If it is permissible for cell phone apps, it seems unclear why it wouldn't be similarly permissible for gaming consoles.

Similarly, the Computer Fraud accusation seems tenuous, given that geohot and others reportedly owned legally purchased PS3s and thus should be authorized to access them.

Lastly, the California Computer Crime Law violations seem somewhat hard to prove, given that Sony will have to establish their business was being significantly harmed via the distribution of the root keys.

Still Sony is a company with a lot of money and power so geohot, et al better retain top notch legal aid and better find someone(s) (quickly) to bankroll that legal campaign.  Of course, given all of his clashes with Apple, we're guessing Mr. Hotz has a pretty good lawyer on retainer.

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RE: They never learn
By HrilL on 1/12/2011 8:14:25 PM , Rating: 5
Completely agree. Sony sold the PS3 with Linux support and advertised it. I'm pretty sure bait and switch advertising is illegal.(Not sure how Sony is getting around that) Where is the FTC protecting our rights as consumers when that is in fact their job.

I have been very surprised at how long it has taken for the PS3 to get fully cracked. PS2 took what less than a year. PS3 almost 5? Xbox 360 a few months (thanks to firmware flashing on the dvd-rom) Just giving people mostly working Linux seemed to be the thing holding everyone back. Sony deserves everything they got from this. They lied and stole from the consumer and that should never be tolerated and it looks like it wasn't.

I've personally never owned a console but I am all for consumer rights and hate any rights trampled upon.

RE: They never learn
By tastyratz on 1/13/2011 11:13:32 AM , Rating: 2
From their side you have a license to use the hardware. you were not forced to update you chose to update and retain psn privileges. I do not think it is right or support Sony in that respect but this wasn't snatched while people were sleeping. It did however awaken beasts and the harder you push the larger the rebellion.

Case in point: Sony sues Fail0verflow - F0 released all of their source code in response. This includes utilities FAR more damaging to sony than those with which were previously available.

Geohot and f0 never enabled piracy, they publicly frowned on it and pushed for homebrew support. They laid the groundwork and others built upon their releases... but it was never a direct intention.

psx scene and ps3hax news sites have been EXPLODING with releases every day now. The ps3 scene is thriving and there are some that say we have more access to the console than any other console ever released including xbox1. It is totally irreversibly compromised at this point.

+1 for freedom

RE: They never learn
By NaughtyGeek on 1/13/2011 12:51:56 PM , Rating: 3
you were not forced to update you chose to update and retain psn privileges.

Um, no. While PSN may be one of the things that required you to update your firmware, playing games you recently purchased was a much bigger driving factor in mandating you upgrade your firmware. You want to play that game you just payed $60 for, well you are REQUIRED to update your firmware and remove your "Other OS" feature. So saying that the update was a matter of choice to retain access to PSN is pretty far off the mark. I guess it is an option to not update your firmware, but that option carried the penalty of not being able to play the software you purchased for the system. To me, that's not really giving an option.

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